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Mothers of Solitude: Childlessness and Intersubjectivity in the Upper Zambezi

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SUMMARY

Drawing on normative cultural forms and interpersonal encounters, I seek to convey the sense of sadness and devastation associated with childlessness in the Upper Zambezi, and to interpret that sense as a pathology of severed intersubjectivity. I also argue that as irremediable as this pathology might seem, elderly childless women may momentarily revert to personhood through compassion, itself experienced as the restoration of intersubjective ties. The conditions of personhood and nonpersonhood, in addition to being structural and processual, are emotional, performative, and intersubjective as well.

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